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Boardwalk Empire - The Complete Series

by Kilian Melloy
Tuesday May 19, 2015
Boardwalk Empire - The Complete Series

HBO gathers all five seasons of its Prohibition-period gangster drama together in one package and adds a bonus disc of never-before-released extras on "Boardwalk Empire: The Complete Series."

If you're a fan of the show, you must have known this moment was coming. Now is your chance to strike: Every one of the show's 57 episodes is here, from the Martin Scorsese-directed pilot to the expectation-defying finale. The saga of Enoch "Nucky" Thompson (a fictionalized version of a real-life Atlantic City figure Enoch "Nucky" Johnson) begins with the start of Prohibition, a well-intentioned but spectacularly wrongheaded and naive attempt to force America into sobriety (and, evidently, morality). Instead, Prohibition gave rise to organized crime. Nucky's ascent -- or descent -- begins when Prohibition comes into effect, and the course he charts across early mob history is replete with colorful machine gun-toting figures right out of the history books, from "Lucky" Luciano (Vincent Piazza) and Arnold Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg) to Al Capone (Stephen Graham).

HBO has essentially re-packaged the existing season sets and put them in a box. Why should you shell out for this? If you purchased the season sets individually as they were first issued (on DVD for Season One, then on Blu-ray / DVD combo sets for Seasons Two and Three, with the final seasons available on either format but not in combination), the good news is the Blu-ray edition of this omnibus edition is all Blu-ray, which means superior sound and image quality as well as space-saving packaging. If that's not incentive enough, there's the Bonus Disc of extras. Some may not find this persuasive enough to pick up this set, but fans who held off will buying the individual season sets will find their patience rewarded -- and neophytes will discover a whole new show to enjoy. The show is not perfect, but its strengths -- especially in design, characterization, and performances -- far outweigh a sense of narrative aimlessness that crept into later seasons. Refreshingly, this is, as producer Howard Korder puts it, "Smart, dark entertainment for adults."

The individual season sets come complete with their original special features, so let's focus on the Bonus Disc. The crown jewel here is a half-hour long featurette titled "The Final Shot: A Farewell to 'Boardwalk Empire.'" This is a surprisingly comprehensive series overview, creatively edited and including cast interviews and audition tapes, and commentary from the show's producers and crew on production, design, costuming, and story.

Other extras:

"Anatomy of A Hit" - Terence Winter, Howard Korder, Tim Van Patten talk about the show's trove of creative kills, which notoriously took out favorite major characters along with recurring bit players.

"Building the Boardwalk" - This featurette focuses on the 300 foot long exterior set that was used for the first three seasons. (It entailed the use of lots of blue screen.)

"Shooting the Series" - All five seasons were shot on 35 mm film, which contributes to the visual lushness of the series. We learn about this and other intriguing tidbits, including choices that determined the look and "mood" of the show's visual aesthetic.

"Designing the Series" - Production Designer Bill Groom & Set Decorator Carol Silverman talk about taking the show across more than ten years of history, from Victorian to Deco.

"Visual Effects" - Visual Effects Supervisor Lesley Robson-Foster holds forth to a sprightly, 20s-esque music selection while explaining how she plans and creates backgrounds, scene details, cityscapes, etc. -- all period-specific, all gorgeous to behold.

All in all, this is a definitive home release of "Boardwalk Empire." If you miss the show, as I do, you will cherish its Blu-ray afterlife.

"Boardwalk Empire: The Complete Series"

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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